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Paradise Now

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I watched Paradise Now over the weekend. I found this film to be quite moving and somewhat disturbing.

Paradise Now is set against the very real backdrop of the struggles faced by the Palestinian people. The film opens with a woman crossing a military checkpoint to get to her home... there isn't much of any dialogue at this point... the director lets the facial expressions of the characters tell the story here... the soldier obviously views this person with contempt because they are from different ethnic groups. Shortly thereafter, we are introduced to the two main characters, Saïd and Khaled. They seem like two very normal young men who are forced to live in very abnormal circumstances. Their home is occupied by a very powerful foreign people, and their city, Nablus, is very much a prison. They cannot come and go as they please, and they are treated as second-class citizens, again, because of differences in ethnicity.

As the plot develops, we learn that Saïd and Khaled are willing and able to take measures to change the situation that they and their people are experiencing. Their way of doing so is by being willing volunteers on a suicide mission in Tel Aviv. They are prepared to strap themselves with explosives and detonate themselves along with as many Israelis they can find, preferably if the Israelis in quesiton happen to be in the military or police. The two life long friends are about to undertake their mission when something goes wrong and they become separated... now alone, each man begins to re-evaluate his solution to their problem. They must each now decide whether to carry out their mission or whether to seek other means of resolution.

Objectively, one could say that this film is flawed because it presents only one point of view of this conflict... the Arabs who we get to know in this film see themselves as the victims and as the oppressed, which is very different from the spin that Western politicians and media place on the situation. Subjectively, this film is very moving. I was able to empathize well with the characters, who are very frustrated with their lot in life, and see violence as their only way out.

Most people in this country are quick to condemn the suicide bombings we see on television and read about in the news, and rightfully so, as violence is a horrible thing. However, the words of Saïd and Khaled in this film sound remarkably like American political rhetoric. They repeat the refrains of fighting for freedom... indeed, freedom is the underlying reasoning for their willingness to die for their cause. In this way, I see them as no different than any soldier in any country's army in the world, including this one. These men are willing to sacrifice themselves for the freedom of their people... a willingness that would be called noble if their side were the victors in the conflict. (Insert here the cliché that history is written by the winners.)

The quote I will remember most from this film is perhaps one of its most chilling... "if we cannot live as equals, then we will die as equals."

Created by donetrawk
Last modified 2006-07-11 08:21 AM
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